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Credit union reaches out to workers

Low-interest loans offered to members of labor groups

A 40-year-old Spokane credit union started by bricklayers is reaching out to all union members and will offer low-interest loans to help workers stay employed.

The Inland Empire Trades Credit Union has changed its name to the Union Credit Union and opened membership to anyone in a labor union – nurses, teachers, state employees – not just trade union members.

The nonprofit institution also will launch the Step Up Program, an effort to lend workers money to help them attain the skills and tools they need to keep their jobs and make good wages, spokeswoman Jamie Chase said.

“The economy is tough, and hardworking people are having a hard time,” Chase said.

“This credit union in particular sees people are having a hard time getting loans, even the types of loans to help them keep their jobs.”

The credit union is seeking federal grants to support Step Up and aims to start the program in October, she said.

Dave Frangione, the head of Step Up, said he relied on the credit union when he filed for bankruptcy protection.

“No bank would touch me,” Frangione said. “Two months after I joined the credit union, they gave me a loan. That was incredible.”

Many apprentices can’t afford to attend apprenticeship programs because they can’t pay for the tools they need. Step Up provides loans of up to $5,000.

CEO Demaris Krummel said the goal of the credit union is to provide services for working people.

“In today’s economy, things are tough enough, and if we don’t pull together and help each other, who will?” she said.

A few Spokane Bricklayers Local 3 members started Inland Empire Trades Credit Union with less than $200 in 1968. Jack Malone, 82, was one of them.

“We had no money,” Malone said.

Members of the credit union only had to pay interest on loans and were allowed to skip payments in the winter, when many were finished with seasonal jobs.

“The only thing that saved me in the winters was the credit union,” Malone said.

Krummel noted a current member deferred payments on his loans for a year after he was injured in a snowplow accident.